I have just finished reading the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. He is a writer who often writes for the New Yorker and he has a rather interesting perspective on success. In his book, he states that success is not necessarily due to innate talents or gifts but rather to both effort and serendipitous opportunity. Neurodiversity proponent Frank Klein once said that autism equals genius and greatness. I would link to Klein's webpage for all those neurodiversity doubting thomases, but his web page seems to have been taken down some time ago. Thomas Edison said that genius was 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. Gladwell in large part espouses the latter view. He demonstrates in his book how usually to achieve a great level of proficiency in any given area approximately 10,000 hours of practice is needed. This is in any field of endeavor, including computer programming, fiction writing, basketball playing, etc. This equates to 3 hours of practice a day for 7 days a week for ten years. As some people know, I have written An essay in which I question the autism of Bill Gates and other people. Some persons in the autism community seem to believe that Bill Gates is autistic. I wrote a variety of facts about Gates. Gladwell presented some more interesting facts. When Gates was in the seventh grade, his parents enrolled him in Lakeside School, a very Tony private school in the Seattle area. The parents of the school's students raised enough money to buy a computer terminal at the school. The students at Gates' school started a computer club. This was in the late 1960s during which time very few schools, including universities, had computer clubs yet Bill Gates got to join one at age 13. Time sharing computers were a very new thing and at this age Gates got a jump on just about everyone else. Another parent at Gates school worked at the school had a firm that sold time sharing to companies and was able to get Gates and other students at the school free computer time in exchange for testing software. Gates become obsessed with this machine and would often spend as much as thirty hours a week working on the computer. Gates mother wondered why it was hard for Gates to get up in the morning. In my essay I wrote about Jactatio Capitus, a neurologic condition in which people rock in a manner reminiscent of autistic people, yet it does not impair their functioning the way autism does. It is often caused or exacerbated by sleep deprivation. Then someone who knew Bill Gates got a call from TRW asking for people who had experience programming the type of main frame that he was working on at the time, The supply for such people in those days was short as luck would have it. With the consent of the Lakeside school Gates was able to pursue an independent study program as an adolescent working for TRW on this computer. All of these extraordinary opportunities which would not conceivably be available to more than a handful of people in the entire world in those days gave Bill Gates gobs of free time to practice computer programming and get in the 10,000 hours that Gladwell writes about. Although Gates undoubtedly has some intelligence and talent, serendipitous opportunites quite clearly played a role in Gates being able to acquire computer skills. Gates conceded in an interview with Gladwell that if there were even 50 teenagers in the entire world who had the opportunity to gain the type of training and experience that was offered to him he would have been surprised.
No one can really dispute that at least in large part extraordinary luck played a part in Gates' acquiring the knowledge that he did. Not to mention the fact that he was able to make friends with Paul Allen who also attended the Lakewood school and also acquire the same type of knowledge that Gates did. As my psychoanalyst used to say, "two heads are better than one" so that was all the more strength for the fledgling microsoft when Allen helped Gates with the new startup in the mid 1970s.
To those who claim that Gates is autistic and that his success proves that autistic people can succeed, I saw, read Gladwell and look at these facts.